PHOTO: Three wide racing was a common occurrence during the American-Canadian Tour’s first appearance at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson
VMM Editor

Just a mere nine months ago the future of Devil’s Bowl Speedway was very much in doubt. The track only ran nine races in 2011 and cancelled their final four events due to the weather, or the threat of it. Devil’s Bowl, and its sister track Albany-Saratoga Speedway, were put up for sale. Some believed this was the end.

The track will begin its 46th season of racing this weekend. And racing fans have Mike Bruno to thank.

The American-Canadian Tour is coming off the heels of two of the best tour races in recent memory and enter the Spring Green at Devil’s Bowl with more than a few storylines. Can Brian Hoar make it three wins in a row? Can the bridesmaid Wayne Helliwell finally carry the checkered flag? How will Devil’s Bowl run under new owner Bruno? Can Devil’s Bowl prove it can succeed as an asphalt track?

After trickling events here and there for the first four weeks, racing season jumps into high gear with four tracks and one series opening this weekend. Devil’s Bowl will be one to watch — and attend — not only this weekend, but throughout the summer.

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The first two ACT Late Model races this season have been two of the better extended distance races that the group has thrown off in recent memory. And it all has to do what the only part of the race car touching the road: tires.

Yes, I know that gets put directly on the racer’s wallet. But, both purses for the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 150 and the Merchants Bank 150 were increased from 2011.

What I don’t get is fans griping about those two races. I know, for me, watching the ending of those races was thrilling where the race win was in doubt until the cars exited the last turn. Hello, Wayne Helliwell has finished on Brian Hoar’s rear bumper twice this season.

This isn’t an attempt to manufacture passing, as someone wrote. It has made the races from lap one to lap 150 better. Drivers don’t have to go into tire conservation mode on lap one and ride around at 70-percent for 150 laps. They can go hard, put on better racing, whether it’s the fifth and sixth places cars battling, or a guy who starts tenth and is coming through the field.

But who cares if they’re trying to manufacture passing? An attempt was made to help the racing, and, gasp, it has! The package that ACT has put together this year has made the racing excellent. And if the on track product is better, than does it really matter how they got there? The fans are the ones that win in the end.

And as our friend Travis Barrett pointed out, if the race was five laps longer, John Donahue would have made the front three look foolish. And if it was ten laps longer, Jean-Paul Cyr may have won. If any race can have that kind of competition at the end of a race, sign me up. I’ll be the first one in line to buy a ticket.

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Good for Blair Bessett.

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Much like Nick Sweet did this past weekend, Brian Hoar will have a pair of threes surrounding him this weekend.

Hoar is attempting to do what only Gary Caron (1995) and Ben Rowe (2006) have been able to accomplish: win three straight ACT Late Model events.

Hoar is also attempting to win his third straight Spring Green. Hoar won the 2010 Spring Green (albeit in July) at Airborne Speedway before taking the first Spring Green at Devil’s Bowl.

Hoar is also attempting to be the sole leader in Spring Green wins. Hoar sits tied with Beaver Dragon with three Spring Green victories. Dragon won the inaugural Spring Green in 1974 before claiming victories again in 1977 and 1979. Hoar’s first Spring Green victory came in 1999.

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We hope Wayne Helliwell doesn’t try to go swimming again this year.

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If we’re picking early season favorites for the PASS North series, we’d be dumb not to start the discussion with the two most successful drivers, Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe. It’s well documented about their combined ten series championships in the 11 years of PASS North, a combined 69 wins in 153 starts. Clark has won four straight championships and has six total. Rowe is the leader in all-time series victories with 37.

But two drivers who could be the favorites to end the Rowe-Clark dominance are Lonnie Sommerville and D.J. Shaw. Sommerville stepped into the Scott Mulkern ride and was impressive, scoring a win at Beech Ridge in July and finished second to Clark in the final series standings. The second-year PASS racer should be a threat to Clark from now until September.

Shaw returns to the PASS North series after spending two years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and should be an immediate threat to the top-three drivers from last season. And don’t forget about Cassius Clark, who is piloting the Height Chevrolet No. 77.

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The coverage of this weekends’ season openers at Bear Ridge Speedway and Canaan Speedways, the PASS North lid-lifter at Beech Ridge, Airborne Speedway’s second event, and the 101.5 The Fox Spring Green 112 at Devil’s Bowl Speedway is sponsored by longtime VMM supporter RPM Racing Engines. Check them out at